‘istory

The other day, over the course of an oft-had conversation, one of my students said to me, in his terrific French accent,

‘You are crazy to be going to Germany. You will be German.’

I said, as I have often said, ‘I will always be Australian, don’t you worry about that.’ And I am rather confident this is fact. By virtue of my birth, blood and behaviour I will always be Australian.

But my student was thinking further down the track. ‘Yes but you will have childs and your childs will be German and they will have childs and they will be German too and no one will care about your ‘istory.’

There it was.

And he’s right, you know. Each generation can only take up the thread for a fraction of the tapestry and even then it’s hard enough if families stay in the same country. And traditions do fall by the wayside anyway, consumed or altered or abandoned by time. My own story, defined so starkly by this move, this split between home country and adopted home country, will be just that to those who follow me – a story. I’m not quite sure I get a say in the matter as to whether my children and their children will care about my history, I’m not sure any of us do.

Perhaps this is what all of this is about, this boxing and bubble wrapping of sentimental items. My past. My history. Keeping it in my possession, in my sights. When I leave here again to move back to a little home that already holds history of its own, I don’t want to start afresh again, I want to blend my past with my present. I want to have that little bottle of my Nana’s perfume sitting in the bathroom of my apartment for no other reason than it is a marker of my history. I want to keep ballet slippers that are 20 years old because, like my music collection, like that vase and that tea cup, those little shoes are a part of my ‘istory. And when I have childs, wherever I am in the world, I want them to know that.

balletshoes

5 Replies to “‘istory”

  1. Very thought-provoking words. I hope to have childs one day, and I’ve just realised recently how important my ‘istory is to me too. Got me thinking! Nice ribbons… do you still dance?

    1. I don’t, I don’t, I did it from the ages of 2 through 10 then gave it up to play tennis and played tennis all the way up until I finished uni. I did love dancing though and the shoes, I love the shoes.

  2. What a lovely post. And that is such a French sentiment … the French are so proud of being French. As an American, I don’t think much about this concept. Ours is a patchwork culture of patchwork families. But then, I’ve also never been confronted with the reality of leaving my home to make a new one in a foreign land. I can imagine that I would feel profoundly conflicted.

    1. Yes the Europeans have this long history, so often uninterrupted. Whereas the new world countries are this big melting pot. I wonder if our ancestors, hundreds of years ago, when they got on a boat to sail to a new colony thought ‘what will my children be?’

      And I think I am beginning to understand, as well, how important, almost how magnified one’s culture becomes in a foreign country, particularly when it comes to passing things down to new generations.

  3. History, wether individual or collective, is identity. Furthermore, there’s a close relationship between personal and collective history and identity. Every single person is part of what forms a group; so you always have influence on what makes the community appear the way it does.
    Apart from the issue of identity in a national point of view: doesn’t everyone ask himself: what will happen to my memory, to my legacy, will anyone pay tribute to the things i achieved, collected, created? I don’t think, this worry is something that only is a matter to emigrants, though their worry may be triggered particularly intensive by the situation they are in.
    I think, being far away from home is a great opportunity in regard to a kind of cultural development, movement. For me, it has always been very inspirating to see my own country through the eyes of a foreigner, always enriching my own view even modifying it. So i’m very happy that you are coming back here (be prepared, it’s REALLY cold here in comparison to australia!).
    As far as i can imagine (to come back to the initial thoughts and worries) i do not think your identity as an australian will be forgotten, even if you stay and settle here. It will always be something very special, something in a way exotic, even more than your german descent to your australian “social setting”, because in germany having foreign ancestors isn’t as common as in australia. It will not be lost, as your life will always be a part of your descendants, but perhaps it will be relativized through the generations.
    AND: if you take the perspective of your german descent: travelling to and living in germany may also be a return.

    Regardless of all those thoughts: Being german isn’t too bad, though it isn’t always easy, in a way, germany will always be the country of the perpretrators – but: it’s not the heavyness of the burden that counts (there is still a signifcant number of people in germany, that feel like being the victims of this heritage), it’s the way you handle it.

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